In the space of two hours, I have been addressed several times in French, I've heard the enigmatic phrase "I really sparked to that idea" fall out of the mouths of TV executives four times, and I've already been handed two business cards from comedians with glossy black & white headshots on the backs (photos–with eyes and names blacked out to protect the networking–coming soon). Such a strange confluence of events in such a short amount of time can only mean one thing: I'm at the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal. Every summer, Just For Laughs (or, if you're French, or trying to act French, Juste Pour Rire) cobbles together a festival that is part comedy arts extravaganza part comedy industry convention. (The convention part is really hammered home by the fact that most everyone is staying at the same hotel, and that most everyone hangs out most nights–and days–in the hotel bar. It's like how I imagine the annual international meeting of cardboard box manufacturers must be, except funnier, more schmoozy, and featuring Howie Mandel.) In the past the festival has been mostly about stand-up, but this year it's expanded to include more sketch (including a Kids In The Hall reunion and a sketch showcase curated by Bob Odenkirk & David Cross), more solo shows (by people like Zach Galifianakis and Jimmy Carr), and more miscellanous French-Canadian comedy/cabaret weirdness that inevitably makes you wonder why Cirque du Soliel started doing comedy (a show called "La Clique"). There are also a bunch of giant shows called Galas which are hosted by big-time comedic luminaries both real (William Shatner) and imagined (Howie Mandel). Since this is my first time in Montreal for the festival, my goals are clear: 1. To create a small dictionary of annoying industry-speak. First entry: Spark, v., to vaguely like something, but in a highly non-committal, yet at the same time super-electric way. Usage: "I really sparked to a lot of things in this pitch." 2. To document Howie Mandel's choice of footwear. Today when I saw him in the lobby, the glint of all those shiny suitcases filled with money still in his eyes and bouncing off of the top of his head, he was wearing pink and purple tie-dyed-esque Converse. 3. To go to as many interesting shows as possible. Tonight it's the Odenkirk and Cross sketch show The Line-Up, and Louis C.K. 4. To go to as many un-interesting shows as possible. Just kidding. Although I'm sure I'll attend more than a few. 5. To collect as many headshot or photo business cards as I can. I'm calling them Cards Of Shame from now on. They're ridiculous. Hopefully I can post pictures of a couple soon. 6. To find out who made this the Just For Laughs logo and why.
What is this? A cuddly, overly dramatic ogre with devil horns? It looks like one of those cartoon mucus beings from the Mucinex commercials dressed up for Halloween. In other words, it totally conveys "comedy festival."